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Meet Birth-to-death Photographer Heather Gallagher

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Photographer and doula Heather Gallagher documents life’s most significant events.

By Gianni Zorrilla, Photos by Heather Gallagher

Heather Gallagher. Photo courtesy of Heather Gallagher
Heather Gallagher by Sanetra Longno

Photographing people doing their thing is Heather Gallagher’s thing, and she’s darn good at it. Gallagher, an Austin-based photographer, is what she calls a “full-spectrum photojournalist.”

“I consider real life as art and see so many everyday interactions as worthy of being documented,” Gallagher says.

This is how she fell into her niche of capturing life in all its phases, including major life milestones ranging from pregnancy and postpartum to parenting and even divorce and health diagnoses.

Nearly 10 years ago, Gallagher was asked to witness a friend’s home birth in New York City. She ended up documenting the birth on film, which turned out to be one of her most moving life experiences—aside from the birth of her own son.

“The rest is history,” Gallagher says,

Today, the majority of her work is in the realms of birth and family photography.

Gallagher came to photography in a very personal way. Born into a multicultural and multilingual family, communication was a household struggle that stifled deeper connection. It was especially difficult with her mother, who is deaf and a Chinese immigrant. Much trial and error led Gallagher to realize taking Polaroids was an effective way of letting her mother know her whereabouts and what she was doing.

“When this proved to work, I saw photography as a powerful tool for instant and clear communication, something I had been searching for my whole adolescence,” Gallagher says.

Once she was hooked on the art form, she began challenging herself to capture more of life’s treasured moments through her photography, focusing much of her work now on the journey from birth to death.

“Everyone is born and everyone dies,” she says. “Birth is always celebrated and death is often something people don’t want to talk about or acknowledge. Both are inevitable, though. And through documenting both ends of the spectrum, it’s my hope to show people how much more alike we are than different.”

Gallagher is also a full-spectrum doula, providing emotional support to families in events of preconception, birth, abortion, miscarriage, adoption and end of life. This role, along with motherhood, has taken the meaning of her work to an elevated level.

“Becoming a mother gave me the fire to finally start charging my worth for my work,” Gallagher says. “I no longer have the time or flexibility to charge next to nothing for my valuable services because every moment working is time away from my family, and that time is precious. I’m setting a good example for my son, my industry and working moms.”

Whether photographing the birth of a child, first steps, graduation or an engagement, Gallagher continues to discover her own voice in telling the stories of others.

“I feel so fortunate to be doing exactly what I feel like I was meant to do in this life,” Gallagher says. “To be of service to people during their most vulnerable moments is an incredible privilege and I’m honored to continue on this path.”


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